Friday, August 28, 2009

Except for the Exceptions

“I have a question,” I interjected once during week two of Greek boot camp.

“Yes?” the instructor asked, looking up from the textbook.

“So we just learned the ‘regular’ way to construct the future tense. But then you added an exception when the stem ends in α, ε, or ο, which strikes me as most of the vowels.”

“Yes...” he began, and I jumped back in lest he should think my question were finished.

“And then you added another exception for verbs that end in β, π, πτ, or φ. And then there’s the exception for verbs that end in γ, κ, σκ, or χ. Not to mention the exception for verbs that end in δ, ζ, θ, or τ. That was all... until you added another exception for verbs that end in λ, μ, ν, or ρ. Of course, as it turns out, the exception also applies to those that end in ιζ. This strikes me as most of the consonants.”

The class started chuckling, and the young teacher shuffled his feet nervously as the unspoken vibes of mutiny flowed through the room.

“So my question is...” I paused, looking helplessly at my notes that had become quite unintelligible and I began longing for the good old days when Latin seemed complicated, “how regular is a regular verb, really? It feels like this rule for the ‘regular’ formation of the future tense applies to any verb as long as it does not end in a vowel or a consonant.”

The above anecdote doesn’t have anything to do with this post really. But as I continue to pray the Divine Office, it continues to remind me of Greek. The complex system I labored to learn with the Dominican and seminarian friends over the summer applies to regular days in Ordinary Time, as long as they are not feast days.


I guess I could think of worse vices of which the Catholic Church has been charged than too high a frequency of feasting, but I sometimes wish I could have a normal morning prayer time, since I worked so hard to learn how to do it. Are any days not feast days, I want to ask?

Not today, at least. Today is the feast of St. Augustine, and the antiphons in morning and evening prayers were excepts of his writings. In honor of his feast day, I thought I’d post them for those out there who are not gluttons for punishment enough to learn to Divine Office, but who enjoy a good feast anyway. Enjoy, and I’ll let you know if I ever stumble upon a regular Greek verb or a regular day on the liturgical calendar.
You inspire us, O Lord, to delight in praising you, because you made us for yourself; our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you. You called, you shouted and you shattered my deafness.


Bro. Luuk Dominiek Jansen OP said...

Well, it is all relatively straightforward, especially for feria days.
And memorials are not to complicated either with sometimes a different anthophone and reading from the proper...
And feast only take the psalms from a different common... and I guess solemnities are quite the same again...

Well, maybe it is like Greek... but maybe that means that there is still hope for me as well,that Greek one day becomes easy...

Marie said...

It's been a while since I had the fortitude to try the Office, but my recollection is that all of it I could take and enjoy if I just didn't have to keep switching pages around. . . .

Chestertonian Rambler said...

And suddenly...I'm happy to continue only knowing Latin (and later, simpler languages.)

Kate said...

In the Scottish Episcopal Church, a wonderful person has put our daily office online ( I quite like flipping back and forth in the book, but when uni starts again, with its early morning commutes and bags already heavy enough with academic books, I suspect I will appreciate having it on the computer (or on a phone) to access on the bus or in the quiet moments between classes.

There's something nice about sticking to the rhythm of one tradition's office for a while, but I love that there are so many different forms out there, and I occasionally try out something new for variety. It's always reassuring to know that they all have their own quirks and complications!